Since its premiere on Disney+ in November 2019, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series has reinvigorated a new generation of Wildcat mania — and helped establish the music careers of its two young leads.
While the original High School Musical trilogy — Disney Channel Original Movies-turned-big screen musical extravaganzas — launched the careers of Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale and others in the late 2000s, no one in the franchise has used the platform as a springboard to pop superstardom quite like Olivia Rodrigo, who stars as Nini Salazar-Roberts in the streaming series, over the past nine months.
From the moment Rodrigo’s character stepped onstage to audition with “Start of Something New” in the series premiere, fans could see the then-16-year-old’s musical potential, which only grew as she flexed her burgeoning songwriting chops on original songs like “All I Want” and “Just For a Moment” throughout the show’s first season. After inking a deal with Geffen Records during the pandemic, Rodrigo released her debut single, “Drivers License,” last January, and transformed from High School Musical series lead to a bonafide pop superstar.
While Rodrigo has dominated pop culture in 2021 with her debut album Sour, her co-star, Joshua Bassett, has also flourished: Weeks after Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” rocketed to No. 1 on the Hot 100, the actor released his own single, “Lie Lie Lie,” seemingly in response to Rodrigo, complete with a music video full of winking similarities to his rumored former flame’s viral visual. A self-titled debut EP arrived later on Warner Records, followed by singles “Only a Matter of Time” and “Feel Something.”
The dual success of Rodrigo and Bassett, who both appear on Billboard’s 21 Under 21 list for the first time this year, got us thinking: what could be the next High School Musical: The Musical: The Series? Is there a music-leaning TV series already streaming, or just around the corner, that could be the start of something new, poised to hurtle a little-known young star onto the path to becoming the next Olivia or Joshua?
Below, Billboard rounded up everything you need to know about the music-heavy show you may not have checked out yet, two upcoming series to keep an eye on, and the young rising singers making waves on a hit (non-musical) teen drama.
Julie and the Phantoms
Another brainchild of original HSM director Kenny Ortega, Julie and the Phantoms is the most obvious successor to the musical legacy of East High that’s currently on streaming.
Based on the Brazilian series Julie e os Fantasmas, the Netflix original follows the story of Julie, a teenager whose passion for music is brought to life following the death of her mother with some help from the ghosts of Sunset Curve, a ‘90s rock band whose career was cut short just before a show at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles thanks to a rather unfortunate batch of street meat (just go with us here).
Backed by her trio of talented co-stars, the musical series features a star-making performance by 17-year-old newcomer Madison Reyes as Julie. The Brooklyn native shines on both starry-eyed, guitar-strewn anthems like “Finally Free,” “Bright” and “Edge of Great,” as well as major production numbers like the unabashedly “What Time Is It?”-eque “I Got The Music” throughout the first season’s 10 episodes. Her magnetic performance was rewarded with not only an MTV Movie and TV Award (for Best Musical Performance), but also her very first Daytime Emmy nomination (among the show’s 13 total nods).
While the series has yet to be officially renewed for a second season, Reyes has seized the momentum, releasing her debut solo single, “Te Amo,” earlier this summer. The song is decidedly more grown-up than the power-pop fare Reyes performs as Julie — built around a simmering Latin guitar line and syncopated percussion, the teenager begs a lover to break down his walls and understand that “it’s you and it’s me for all eternity.”
Whether or not Julie and her phantasmic pals get another go-around (executive producer Ortega hinted in early August via Instagram that he’s “working hard” with Netflix to get a greenlight for Season 2), expect more big things from the show’s rising star.
Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies
As Betty Rizzo once said on the first day of school, “Okay girls, let’s go get ‘em.” Currently in development at Paramount+, the upcoming Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies just earned itself a 10-episode series order from the newest streamer on the block.
Set four years before the class of the original 1978 film ruled the school, this prequel series featuring all-new music will tell the story of “four fed-up, outcast girls [who] dare to have fun on their own terms, sparking a moral panic that will change Rydell High forever.” The show is serious about finding fresh faces for its quartet of Pink Ladies, too: on Sept. 26, producers put out an open casting call for “true triple threats who are 18 years or older to play high school juniors.”
In the details, the casting team made clear that the criteria for being a Pink Lady in the 21st century is inclusive to all, specifically calling for all gender expressions, sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, religions and disabilities — because at Rydell High, everyone goes together like chang chang, changity chang sha-bop.
Olympic Boulevard is all about K-pop — a world arguably much more cutthroat than any international sporting competition. The hour-long musical drama, which has been in the works for NBC’s streaming service Peacock since late 2019, is introduced through the eyes of a disgraced Korean-American idol who gets a job teaching at one of the very first K-pop training academies in America.
With writing from creator Paula Yoon, the series has potential to serve as a kind of crossover platform for rising K-pop talent and catapult the genre even further into the U.S. mainstream. Its secret weapon, though, just might be the presence of Kyle Hanagami, who’s slated to serve as the show’s resident choreographer. If you don’t recognize the name, Hanagami has spent the last four years working with Blackpink, creating the dance numbers in music videos like “Ddu-Du Ddu Du,” “Boombayah,” “Kill This Love,” “How You Like That,” “Ice Cream” and “Lovesick Girls.”
Hanagami’s packed resume also boasts credits with K-pop royalty like Girls’ Generation (“You Think”), Red Velvet (“Power Up”), and rising girl group Aespa (“Black Mamba”), as well as Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Nick Jonas, and more. He even choreographed Ariana Grande’s 2019 headlining set at Coachella with *NSYNC.
While not a music-leaning series on its face, Love, Victor has enraptured fans for two seasons with the sweet coming-out story of high schooler Victor Salazar, played by Michael Cimino. Loosely positioned as a spin-off to 2018’s Love, Simon, the coming-of-age series begins with Victor navigating his identity as the new kid in school who strikes up a long-distance pen-pal-ship with Nick Robinson’s Simon.
Like every good high school story, the show injects music into the lives of its characters — whether that means George Sear’s Benji performing a cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” during Season 1’s Battle of the Bands or Anthony Turpel’s Felix rather hilariously bombing as his alter-ego DJ F-Bomb. However, the show’s standout musical moment didn’t happen until part way through Season 1, thanks to an adorable karaoke cover of Justin Bieber’s “Holy” between Cimino and Victor’s latest crush, Rahim (Anthony Keyvan).
The moment showed off the surprisingly dulcet pipes many fans didn’t know had been hiding under 21-year-old Cimino’s boy-next-door persona all this time, and since the premiere of Season 2, the actor has branched out into music by releasing his debut single “Love Addict,” as well as singer-songwriter-y follow-ups “Little Blue Car” and “Cigarettes and Incense.”
Cimino isn’t the only musically-inclined up-and-comer hiding within the cast’s ranks: While Sear has taken to Instagram in the past to show off his skills on the guitar, co-star Bebe Wood — who plays scene-stealing it girl Lake — has launched her own music career in tandem with Cimino’s by dropping music videos for singles “Don’t Call Me Flower” and “Mathew Street.”